South Africa Eats: From the Simple to the Sublime

Really, when I go to South Africa, I would be entirely content consuming only the following three things:

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Those would be my Stoneys, plenty of cups of rooibos tea, and milk tarts. All the milk tarts. I realize, one of those three things (the rooibos tea) I have no problems finding in the US. Another one of those three things I can make in the US I have the time and energy (these days I don’t). But those Stoneys, are still so elusive. So here is my happiness at consuming my first Stoney at the Skukuza airport, which is yet another reason why that airport is just about the most perfect airport on this planet.

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That could only be matched by my happiness at afternoon tea at Jock Safari Lodge with milk tarts and milky rooibos tea.

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So yes, that would have been enough for me. But it is South Africa where the food is delicious and that isn’t all there is! Since this was our second trip to South Africa, I took a little more time to do some research and make some reservations for restaurants in Cape Town before the trip.

One of the big goals was to eat at The Test Kitchen, which this year moved up to #28 on the list of best restaurants in the world. Let me tell you, it was not easy to get a reservation. I couldn’t manage to get in for a dinner, but we did get a lunch (I had to cancel the afternoon tea reservation I had scheduled at the Mt. Nelson hotel) and it was so worth it. David and I don’t get out much these days to fine dining locations (our last meal at the Fearrington House the Saturday before the babies were born and our trip over to Chef and the Farmer are the only two other times we have really indulged in the past year). I may have forgotten what it is like to eat at places like Dinner with Heston Blumenthal, but Chef Luke Dale-Roberts did not disappoint. Our five course lunch was pretty much the best meal that I have had in a very, very long time. Here was the menu:

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Here was the foie gras course which was probably my favorite:

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I don’t understand how difficult it must be to be a chef like Dale-Roberts and consistently come up with inventive, amazing food that tastes so delicious and is unlike anything else. That is a mark of creativity, artistry, and brilliance that I cannot comprehend. I can only be grateful to consume it.

We did manage to get in to Dale-Robert’s other restaurant, The Pot Luck Club, for dinner our second night in Cape Town. Just eating at that place would have been enough. It is a small plates, tapas style place, and every dish we had was more delicious than the one before. The menu is divided into six different “tastes” for your palate, and the outstanding servers recommend trying a few items from each of the different flavors. I don’t know what my favorite dish was, but the fish sliders, springbok tartare, and the beef filet were pretty big standouts. The dessert I ordered was a poached meringue, which was light, delicious, and probably my most favorite dessert (aside from my milk tarts), that I had the entire time I was there.

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Also, the view at the Pot Luck Club beats the ground floor view of the Test Kitchen. It sits on the top floor of the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock.

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Both restaurants have open kitchens where you watch the masters at work.

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If you are planning a trip to Cape Town, plan in advance enough to get into both restaurants.

We ate so much other good food, I could write a very long entry about that. But, I will just write about a few other places. This time, we hit Willoughby & Co twice for lunch in the V&A Waterfront. They have great, fresh seafood and the place gets packed, but we hit it early enough that we were able to get seated right away. The first time, we went for the more traditional seafood fare – fish and chips, mussels, and such. We noticed everyone else was ordering the sushi, so we headed back a second time for some sushi, and we understood why everyone else was ordering it. It was pretty impressive for South African sushi, probably some of the best sushi I had in quite some time (certainly better than Durham sushi). DSC02702DSC02701

We had a great meal at Dash at the Queen Victoria Hotel. They also had an especially photogenic, as well as delicious, foie gras appetizer.

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Probably my favorite restaurant view at the V&A came from Mondiall. Even better than their view, though was the delicious enormous burger that I had there (photo not provided). It was juicy and messy and I devoured it way to quickly.

I shouldn’t neglect to mention that the V&A has great quick eats too thanks to the V&A Food Market. They had great street food plus lots of locally made goodness. One night for dinner, David and I just grabbed a selection of different samosas and some yogurt smoothies from the Market to take back to our hotel room to watch the Chelsea game, and it was just about perfect (except Chelsea lost).

Finally, if we are talking about perfect views and dining, I should talk about two other places. The day we went to Hermanus to watch the whales, we ate a lovely seafood lunch at Lemon Butta watching the whales in the bay.

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If you are into watching “the scene” at Camps Bay, it can be easily done at La Belle Bistro and Bakery where we had a delightfully unplanned late lunch.

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I haven’t even mentioned the great food at Jock’s Safari Lodge, nor numerous other places where we ate, but suffice it to say, if you genuinely enjoy the kind of food you get at the confluence of many cultures, then South Africa is the place for you. If you are like me and are trying to lose baby weight, it is not the place for you.

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